Fry, Roger Eliot (1866–1934) By Rubin, Adrianne
Roger Fry was an art critic, painter, lecturer, and curator whose name is often associated with the Bloomsbury Group. Born in London to a prominent Quaker family, Fry was educated at King’s College, Cambridge, where he became one of the famed Cambridge Apostles. He studied natural sciences, earning first-class honours, though his true love was art. He studied painting under the tutelage of Francis Bate in London in 1889 and at the Académie Julian in Paris in 1892. Though he considered himself a painter first and foremost, Fry was most respected as a critic of art. He is best remembered as a proponent of modern French painting, having coined the term ‘Post-Impressionism’ in 1910 as he was organizing the exhibition Manet and the Post-Impressionists at the Grafton Galleries in London. Two years later, Fry curated The Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition with Clive Bell and Boris von Anrep. In 1913, Fry opened a decorative arts firm called the Omega Workshops in the Bloomsbury section of London. Duncan Grant (1885–1978) and Vanessa Bell (1879–1961) were also members of the Omega, which shut down in 1919 due to financial struggles and personal tensions. Both as an art critic and a painter Fry was a Formalist. He promulgated the belief that subject matter in a work of art is secondary to the formal properties of a work – line, mass, colour, and spatial relationships – because formal qualities, he believed, hold universal appeal and are neither culture- nor time-specific. These views are made apparent in Fry’s copious writings.